Homeless or homed, we’re part of one community
In 1913, South Australian Baptists served hot food and cared for children whose fathers were deployed during the First World War, and whose mothers had entered the workforce.
For over one hundred years the site in Adelaide’s inner city, has continued to be dedicated to the service of South Australians in need. Today, Baptist Care SA’s homelessness services provide 35,000 nutritious meals and close to 5000 bed nights each year.
Homelessness in our state remains a prevalent issue. People seeking homelessness services cite lack of affordable housing (41%) and domestic and family violence (33%) as the main contributors. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people on low incomes and those born overseas continue to be overrepresented. People aged over 55 years old are also experiencing homelessness at a rapidly increasing rate.
Many of the people who come to Baptist Care SA’s InnerCity site have experienced complex co-morbidity over some time, and all too frequently relationships have fractured under the pressure. For many, the social stigma of homelessness also contributes to isolation and loneliness.
It’s clearly not enough in itself to serve hot meals, advocate for housing or provide financial assistance – although of course they are essential and of course we do. We are social creatures, and without authentic, supportive relationships, positive, life-long change is extremely difficult to achieve.
In recognition of this, a simple but innovative faith-based pilot program for the people of the Inner City community has been established. Joel is one of three young Christians with a heart for people who are doing it tough, who have taken up the opportunity to grow in, and live out, their faith through the Urban Learning Community (ULC) program.
Housed close to the Centre, Joel and the other participants are experiencing living in close community in a missional context. Participants are active in their churches, pay nominal rent and are supported by a ULC mentor. In return, they volunteer regularly at the Inner City, bringing their gifts and strengths into the community; and build positive, non-judgmental relationships with people at the Centre.
“In many ways it’s been an incredible learning experience,” says Joel. “I became aware that we can subconsciously divide the community into the homeless and the homed – and it’s easy to lump all homeless people into one generic identity.
(But) I’ve had the opportunity to move outside my normal social circles and get to know people on a personal level, and you realise there’s not much difference between a homeless and a homed person. I’ve spoken to someone experiencing homelessness who studied maths and physics just like me – and to another who loves guitar and the same music I do. It’s really broken down unconscious stereotypes and made it clear – we’re all part of the same community.”
Joel and the other participants have been enthusiastically welcomed by the WestCare community.
“Joel’s my very good friend,” says WestCare community member, Soso. “He’s a good man. He makes no distinction or discrimination between people. He makes people feel like they are not abandoned. When you’re homeless you can feel isolated and neglected, but they (ULC participants) help ease that tension. We talk every morning…we talk about uni (sic) and other things.”
If you would like to learn more about Baptist Care SA’s Urban Learning Community, contact Manager: Community Development, Craig McGlone on 0409 620 494 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
…the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Micah 6:8)
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Specialist homelessness services 2017-18 South Australia aihw.gov.au/getmedia/13fe50bb-2ee9-4c12-af5e-aa93b66370c2/aihw-hou-299-sa.pdf.aspx